Resa Blatman received her MFA in painting from Boston University in 2006, and her BFA in graphic design from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 1995, and she taught advanced level graphic design at MassArt since 1997. Resa received several grants and awards, including a nomination for the 2010 James and Audrey Foster Prize at the ICA, Boston. Her work is included in private and corporate collections, including Fidelity, Twitter, the Hilton Hotel, and the WH Ming Hotel in Shanghai, China, and her work is reviewed and featured in numerous magazines, journals, books, and online blogs.
In this interview with visual arts editor Catalina Piedrahita, Blatman talked about the process of crafting her cut-edge paintings, about the content of her most recent work and about the Boston art scene, among other things.
Catalina Piedrahita: The first time I saw your cut-edge paintings was at Liquid Art House a few months ago and I thought they were stunning. The intricacy, the detail and craftsmanship in your pieces are unbelievable. I feel I could spend hours looking at one piece and always find new shapes hidden in the layers and layers of lines and color. Can you tell us about the process of putting together these pieces? How and why did you choose this medium?
Resa Blatman: Thank you for the generous compliment about my paintings. I'm always grateful to hear that my work inspires people so much.
The layered, laser-cut paintings are put together almost like a puzzle. I have an idea in mind of what the surface should look like before working on it, but it's rare that the layered pieces stay as I initially imagined. For the ongoing series of paintings/installations called "Gaia," I generally start with long pieces of black, dripping sludge/oil, then I'll add land and sea animals, birds, fauna, invasive plant species, etc. Over those pieces I put layers of clear plastic with hand-cut and painted swirls. Many of these surfaces jut out from the wall, but the painted swirls protrude the most, and undulate, coming about 10-12 inches from the wall. The last thing I add are the flowers.
I chose the medium for its durability, lightness, translucency, and ease when laser-cutting.
CP: It’s my understanding that your most current work speaks about climate change issues, why did you decide to focus on this theme? Why is it important to talk about climate change?
RB: Global warming is an enormous issue. We need to tackle climate challenges quickly and with as much dedication as possible for the well-being of our health and the earth itself, which is the only home we have. I've always been worried about the environment and brought those concerns to my paintings, but after seeing the documentary "Gasland" a few years ago, it became clear to me that I needed to explore the climate issue more thoroughly in my creative process. Since then, the work has expanded to be much more than I ever imagined. The interest in my new paintings/installations, discussions around them, and the issues, have been very enlightening and satisfying.
CP: Can you tell us about your graphic design work? How does it coexist with your fine art work? Do they influence each other?
RB: I've been a professional graphic designer since I graduated from MassArt in 1995, and I taught design there for 15 years as well. I love graphic design, typography, and making things look good, and it was obvious from the start that my painting style influenced my design. However, when I started painting full-time again, I was surprised to see how much my graphic design influenced my paintings. I create the laser-cut edges using my design skills but, without realizing it, the paintings themselves were also influenced by graphic design. Over time, the work has found its own stylistic voice, and while I still use my design skills to create the laser-cut surfaces, the paintings are made with more organic, free-form spontaneity.
CP: What are your thoughts on Boston’s art scene? In your eyes, what’s great about it and what is it lacking?
RB: Unfortunately, Boston's art scene has always existed in the shadow of New York's, but I'm not sure that's the hindrance it used to be. The web has changed the way we view the world, including the art world, and has evened the playing field a bit. Boston's museums have increased and expanded to make us an art destination, but the gallery scene still lacks in size and force. It's expensive to run a successful gallery and it's hard to know what the future holds for Boston's galleries as the price of rental space continues to increase.
CP: It’s always an honor to be able to include well-accomplished and established artists in our issues, so thank you for helping MiddleGray expand its community and visibility. Thinking back when you started your career as an artist, what would have been a valuable piece of advice you wished someone had given you? What would you have liked to learn back then that might have made things a bit easier to launch your artistic career?
RB: It's hard to say exactly, as there is so much advice that could be helpful. But while advice is often given, it's also often ignored until we're ready to hear it. I suppose the most important suggestions would be to be persistent; stay open to feedback; work with purpose, integrity, and confidence; and remain brave in the face of rejection, as it comes often.